Visualizing Gas Prices: AAA.com, GasBuddy.com, and FoxNews.com

How do you give unbiased, actionable information in map form?

René F. Najera, MPH, DrPH

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I woke up this morning needing to fill-up the fuel tank in my vehicle, so I jumped online to look up gas prices. I was met with a graphic from Fox News that seemed interesting to me. Here it is:

A map of the United States shows different color gradients based on price of gasoline. Blue is cheapest and concentrated in the South, while red is more expensive and found in the west, the midwest, and the northeast.
Source: https://www.foxnews.com/

The color bar seemed weird to me, along with the range. Given Fox News’ reputation for skewing data to fit a narrative, I looked at their source, AAA.com. (Please note: Fox News are not the only news outlet on either end of the political spectrum to manipulate data.) Here is AAA.com’s map:

A map of the United States is shown with different color gradients for each state based on the average price of gasoline. As with the previous map, blue is cheapest and concentrated in the South, while red is more expensive and found in the West, Midwest, and Northeast.
Source: https://gasprices.aaa.com/

Note that the range of colors is different. Where Fox News has eight categories of colors, AAA.com has five, with a neat white color for prices in the middle. Then there is Gas Buddy (dot com) and their map, which I find the best of them all:

A map of the United States is shown with a yellow-to-red gradient of colors by county. Yellow is where gasoline is more expensive, and can be found more concentrated in California, but with pockets in Illinois and other states. Deep red (almost purple) can be found mostly in the South, but also in other places.
Source: https://www.gasbuddy.com/gaspricemap

Here, the color scale is inverted, compared to the others. The darker the color, the cheaper the gasoline price per gallon. I find this map the best, because it shows prices per county. Along with the ten categories, the map is very granular, giving me hyper-local gas prices and actionable information. I can even zoom in and find specific gas stations near me.

The Gas Buddy map also tells a better story. Let’s look at California, where the prices are highest. Zooming in around Fresno, I found that there were some spots where prices were almost a dollar cheaper than the rest of the state:

A map shows counties around Fresno, California, with varying colors to represent gas prices.

If you look at Fox News and AAA, you would think the South has some of the cheapest prices, but then look at the variation between Montgomery, Alabama, and Columbus, Georgia:

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René F. Najera, MPH, DrPH

DrPH in Epidemiology. Associate/JHBSPH. Adjunct/GMU. Epidemiologist. Father. Husband. (He/Him/His/El)